Today on our way home from some post-Christmas shopping, we passed a McDonald’s. Sassy shared how horrified she was to learn how fast food is made earlier this year. Silent One shared that he runs by this McDonald’s during track practice. I shared that we went to McDonald’s on the day Silent One joined our family. “Really?” the kiddos asked. “Yup,” I replied.
Here’s me telling this family story and the kids adding in their commentary and questions in <<<brackets>>>.
Six-year-old Silent One was dropped off at our hotel room. He was crying and hiding behind the social worker’s leg. He’s a bit sick and running a fever, the social worker shared and told us to keep an eye on it, but it was probably no big deal.
<<<Mom, I thought Silent One wasn’t sick until just a few years ago. Sassy, that’s true – from Silent One’s arrival until then he was never sick.>>>
Three-year-old Sassy was not sure about this new brother. “Why’s he crying, mommy?” she asked. Keeping it simple for a toddler, I told her that Silent One was scared and not feeling well.
My husband and I felt a bit weird. Ten minutes after the social worker arrived, she left and we were on our own with a very unhappy six year old. There were no favorite toys or favorite cuddly blankets to give him to help comfort him; he only had the clothes on his back (which were too small) and nothing more.
<<<Why didn’t he have anything, Mom? Well, the social worker wanted to leave his clothes and toys for other children that may not be adopted, so they would have nice things. I disagreed as it’s really hard to lose all your stuff, but it wasn’t my choice.>>>
I tried speaking in Spanish to Silent One, but he was not interested in any of us.
<<<Could Dad speak Spanish? Not back then, honey, but did you know Silent One’s birth mom spoke English?>>>
Silent One didn’t want to chat with me. He was not interested in playing with his new sister. It was all too overwhelming!
Then inspiration struck. We popped in a movie – Finding Nemo. He calmed down and became absorbed in the story. During the opening scenes my husband and I glanced at each other. Ugh! How could we have forgotten that in the beginning of the movie Nemo loses his mom!!! Drat those children’s movies that always kill off the parents. But Silent One didn’t seem phased.
After the movie, I asked Silent One if he wanted to go to McDonald’s. Like most little kids, his face lit up. His big brown eyes held some excitement and a hint of happiness. We walked down the street to the restaurant, which was only a few blocks away. He held our hands during some of the walk. Mmmm… this kinda felt like family. We arrived and I asked Silent One what he wanted to eat. “Hambuergsa,” he chirped (hamburger).
<<<Silent One always gets hamburgers, says Sassy. Last time I got a chicken sandwich, says Silent One, and it was good.>>>
We let the kids play on the McDonald’s playground equipment for what seemed like an eternity. Fairly quickly they began to play together, chasing each other up the ladder and down the slide. Sassy of course would run back and forth between us and the playground, which started Silent One running to us and away from us.
We walked back to the hotel, hung out, ate dinner and then called it an early night. I remember how Silent One was so tidy, washing his face then folding the wash cloth neatly. One shock was Silent One wanting absolute privacy for changing his clothes. No help needed nor wanted in changing into jammies (I had brought a whole suitcase of new clothes for him). I felt a little sad as moms like to perform these little acts of caring. But it was the first day, so I moved on. And Silent One so neatly folded up his clothes and put them away in the drawer. He was very happy about sharing the queen-sized bed with Sassy, probably because he shared a bed in his previous home. I read a bed time story and he lay there quietly. After a long while, he fell asleep.
Everyday Stories of Our Lives are Powerful
I wrote the above to show just how natural reminiscing about birth family and adoptive families can be. Sometimes adoptive and foster families are reluctant to re-tell stories that may bring up big emotions. But sharing stories with our children validates their experiences. It helps them know that it’s a valuable part of their life. It’s not a big secret to be hidden away. It’s just part of their life.
Also, stories need to be told and re-told as children mature. What they can process at age 6, at age 9, at age 12, and at age 15 is completely different. So we need to share the experiences over and over, giving children the chance to continue to develop a deeper understanding of their lives.
So yes, driving past McDonad’s is a perfect time to discuss how gross fast food processing is, where the track team runs, and how Silent One joined the family.